By TEREASA NIMS
Downriver Sunday Times
WYANDOTTE – Sandy Clay has a respiratory disease and the last thing she wants is something in her environment, such as petroleum coke (petcoke) that could worsen her condition.
“There are no studies on how it impacts people with breathing problems, or just people in general,” Wyandotte resident Clay said.
Petcoke conversations stemmed when a River Rouge company, Detroit Bulk Storage, wanted to move its coal byproduct petcoke piles to the River Rouge-Ecorse area from Detroit, after the Detroit mayor ordered all petcoke piles moved out of the city.
Detroit Bulk Storage representatives did not return calls as of press time.
Fortunately for Clay and others, Wyandotte city officials don’t want petcoke anywhere nearby either, as they shot down the proposed move of the product closer to the city during Monday’s council meeting.
“They don’t want It anywhere near the area,” a city employee said.
They are sending their proposed resolution opposing the storage of petcoke to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and state legislators.
Wyandotte Mayor Joseph Peterson said the city intends to prevent the public nuisance caused by the emissions of airborne particulates from the storage, handling, and transport of petcoke. City officials unanimously believe it is in the best interest of the public health, safety and welfare to prohibit anything to do with the substance.
Clay was one of the estimated 150 people attending a town hall meeting in Wyandotte on March 5, when MDEQ representatives answered questions regarding petcoke and the possibility of storing it in Downriver communities. Some people believed the Detroit River was being seen as a dumping ground and others were upset that the idea was even proposed.
“Why would you ask to dump something that could be so harmful?” Reed LeVeque of River Rouge asked at the March 5 meeting. “It feels like a punch in the stomach.
“What, you have no other place to put it, so you ask us if we want to pollute our water, fish and people with it? That’s kind of bold.”
WHAT IS PET COKE?
Petroleum coke is a solid by-product of petroleum refining that contains high concentrations of carbon and sulfur. It also has trace elements of metals, such as lead, nickel, chromium and vanadium. The black dust from the substance is known to cover homes, yards and cars of neighborhoods near petcoke storage facilities, and inhaling petcoke can contribute to respiratory health problems, particularly for individuals who suffer from heart and lung disease.